I have been trying to pluck up the courage to call you for over a week to tell you that I’m struggling with my mental health.
Today I decided that I couldn’t put it off any longer.
I needed to get rid of sick feeling that has taken up residence in the pit of my stomach and the dizzying sensation of being precariously balanced somewhere very high when I thought about calling you. It’s been disturbing my sleep and plaguing my waking hours and to be honest I’d had enough.
I know that normally I speak you every other day to talk to you about Squidge and work and all sorts of other things but I’ve not been able to phone you for the last two weeks.
I haven’t been able to phone you because I know that the first thing you’ll ask is whether I’m back to work and the reaction I’ll get when I tell you I’m not.The silence that I’m met with when I tell you that the GP has signed me off for another month tells me more about the shame and disapproval that you feel than any words.
But in spite of all of that I thought that no matter what you said it couldn’t make me feel worse that I already did.
How incredibly wrong I was.
I don’t expect you to understand the reasons behind my mental health issues but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for you to just accept that I have problems. I know that despite you, me and my brother all having suffered from mental health issues at one time or another it’s still something you view as shameful, something that should be kept a secret and not shared with anyone.
Even though I’m an adult with my own family and my own child and a job that involves me caring for sick babies and vulnerable adults I still feel as though, when it comes to my mental health you still feel as though you know best. I may be your daughter but that doesn’t give you the right to treat me like a child.
I can’t explain to you how difficult I find it to make phone calls or how much my stomach churns when I know that you’re going to ask about work because I know that you’ll become angry and defensive even though I’m not blaming you for anything.
I don’t expect you to understand any of it but what I didn’t expect was for you to tell me to buck my ideas up.
You can’t possibly know how much that hurt me because if you did you would never, ever have said it.
I held the Northern One’s had so tightly that my knuckles went white while you demanded to know why I wasn’t better; that I didn’t have anything to worry about and nothing in my life to cause me to become depressed or warrant my being off work. I wanted to cut off the call and pretend that it had been an accident but I managed to hold everything together while you told me that I should pull myself together and stop relying on the input of others to sort my life out.
I waited until you’d finished, I put the phone down and I sat on the sofa and sobbed until my head hurt and I felt so dizzy I thought I was going to faint.
I still need to feel as though you love me and that you’re not ashamed of me and disappointed in me but today I felt as though you couldn’t get off the phone fast enough, as though I would somehow infect you with my misery and my malingering (as you so kindly put it).
After ten years I thought you might have accepted that I’m not just lazy or hysterical or making it up. I thought the five different antidepressants, four counselors, two psychiatrists, numerous GP appointments and the input of several specialist mental health teams might have made it obvious.
I know you find it difficult to understand why I have mental health problems when you can’t see an obvious cause for it. I can pinpoint almost exactly when my mental health started to fail but as far as you’re concerned that was ten years ago and I should have gotten over it by now.
It was so much easier for you to understand when I was ill during my pregnancy because you could see a direct cause and finding myself unexpectedly pregnant was a perfectly legitimate reason to be struggling. During those nine months you stepped up for me in a way you hadn’t done for years; telling me that it was ok to feel the way that I did and that you would be there to help me in any way you could, even if that meant giving up work to come and look after me.
Then Squidge was born and you expected me to suddenly turn back into the happy, outgoing daughter that you remember. Even though I’ve not been that person for years I know you still find it difficult to accept that I’m not suddenly going to change back.
Mum, you always said that you hid so many things from your own Mum and that you never wanted me to feel as though I had to hide things from you but sometimes you leave me with no other choice.
I feel as though I can’t tell you things because you manage to take my pain and make it about you. I don’t deliberately set out to hurt you or to deceive you but my mind is already messed up enough without having to deal with you taking my issues personally, as though I somehow blame you for my turning out the way I have.
We’re coming up to see you in a few weeks and quite frankly I’m dreading it. I’m dreading the loaded questions and the thinly veiled disappointment when you realise that I’m going to be starting a mood stabliser and that I’ve been referred to a psychiatrist again. It’s not even as if we can avoid the subject completely because even though you never like the answers I give you, you seem incapable of not asking.
If I thought I could tell you that it’s not a subject I want to discuss you’d react as strongly and as negatively as if I’d told you to mind your own business. I feel like I’m treading on eggshells when it comes to my mental health and it is absolutely exhausting.
I want you to be able to have a rewarding relationship with Squidge and you are wonderful Grandparents to him but right now you’re being crap parents to me and I don’t know if my mental health and my self confidence can take more of beating than it’s already getting from me.
I can’t say any of these things to you in real life because, even though our relationship isn’t great at the moment, trying to help you to see things from my point of view would just damage it even further. You just can’t accept that your way of seeing the world can be downright wrong and how much you can hurt people when you just won’t accept that.
I love you both so much but right now I can’t understand why you would hurt me so badly, even if it was just because you don’t know how to react when I tell you that something is going wrong for me.
I need to step back and work out how we’re going to move forwards from this because at the moment I just don’t know how.
I’ll try calling you in a few days when I can pick up the phone without bursting into tears.